Monday, April 20, 2009

Cold Fusion’s No Better Reheated

The announcement on the April 19th edition of 60-Minutes on CBS served the important purpose of presenting the enormous potential of fusion to provide virtually limitless, cheap, and pollution-free energy. Mastering fusion will be mankind’s greatest advance since mastering fire. While fusion is a vitally important objective, the so-called “breakthrough” announced by 60-Minutes is bad science and bad journalism.

The key claim made by the scientists 60-Minutes interviewed was that excess heat was generated by a reaction they say they do not understand. There’s nothing magic about reactions that release energy – candles generate more heat than the matches which light them. Every fuel we burn – coal, natural gas, diesel, gasoline – generates excess heat; that’s why we burn them. The only remarkable thing about this announcement is that the proponents acknowledged they didn’t understand it.

I once saw Siegfried and Roy make a tiger disappear five feet in front of me. That was very impressive, but I don’t think it was magic. The 60-Minutes announcement isn’t nearly as impressive, and it certainly is not new science.

Chemical reactions, such as the one discussed last night, release energy by rearranging electrons in molecules. The energy of any chemical reaction is therefore millions of times less than is required to change an atom of one element into an atom of different element. Chemical reactions can’t change lead into gold or deuterium into helium; only nuclear reactions have enough energy to do that.

If these scientists were serious about providing real proof of achieving cold fusion they should have shown evidence of helium gas being generated in the reaction. Fusion in the Sun and all other stars is based on hydrogen and deuterium nuclei being converted into helium. Detecting helium is easy to do and would provide a definitive test, as any competent scientist in this field is well aware.

If this were a sincere effort to advance energy technology and solve our critical energy and greenhouse gas problems, why didn’t the scientists present this definitive evidence?

If this were a sincere effort to inform the public of a vital field of scientific development, why didn’t 60-Minutes interview experts in nuclear physics? Promoting more “junk science” can only make the public understandably less interested in supporting real science.


  1. Seriously, THANK YOU. I mean, can you believe this shit? It's 2000fucking-nine and we're still getting this crap like clockwork, once a year the media will shit all over itself in praise of the latest cold fusion BS and then the story disappears again just like last year. And where the hell did the AIP find this Robert Duncan moron? I literally sat with my jaw on the floor listening to what essentially amounted to a fawning endorsement by this rube of a company whose founder Irving Dardik, had his medical license revoked for fraud back in 1995 by the New York Dept of Health. One of his "patients", who was charged $100,000 for this quackery. Infuriating. Robert Duncan deserves the worst kind of public humiliation for his laughable credulity in this thing. Hopefully James Randi is watching this.

  2. Yeah, who is this Robert Duncan moron, anyway?

    Ph.D. Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), 1988
    Thesis: Development of Toroidal Magnetic Thermometry to Study New Phenomena
    Associated with the Superfluid Transition in Liquid 4He
    Advisor: Professor Guenter Ahlers
    B.S. Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1982
    Thesis: Study of Energy Transfer Processes in Methyl Alcohol Using A Computer-
    Controlled IR-IR Double-Resonance Spectrometer
    Advisors: Professor Michael Feld and Dr. Ramchandra Dasari
    Honors and Major Professional Activities
    Fellow (and Life Member) of The American Physical Society
    Gordon and Betty Moore Distinguished Scholar, Caltech (2004 – 2005)
    International Steering Committee for Quantum Fluids and Solids (2003 – 2008, Committee Chair
    in 2004, Symposium Chair in 2003)
    Chair, Instrumentation and Measurement Topical Group, American Physical Society (2002)
    Chair, Unified Science and Technology for Biothreat Reduction Conference Series (BTR’01,
    BTR’02, BTR’03, BTR’04, BTR‘05)
    NASA Flight Principal Investigator, Critical Dynamics in Microgravity (1992 – 2006)
    Academic Experience
    2006 – Date Founding Interim Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Los Alamos
    National Laboratory, formed by the New Mexico Consortium
    2002 – 2006 Associate Dean for Research, College of Arts and Sciences, UNM
    2001 – date Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UNM
    2000 – date Joint Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), UNM
    1998 - date Visiting Associate in Physics, Caltech Faculty
    1996 - 2001 Associate Professor of Physics, UNM
    1983 – 1984 Head Teaching Assistant, Department of Physics, UCSB
    1981 – 1982 Member of the MIT Committee on Educational Policy

    You guys slay me. Instead of spouting off about something you don't know anything about, why don't you read some of the research, or visit a couple of labs for yourself. Or, you can just continue to behave like arrogant morons yourselves.

  3. Dr. Robert L. Piccioni:

    I must point out that people in your kind of background stands to lose big time if cold fusion is proven to be working, as you will lose your job and funding, as well as thousands of your colleagues in expensive high energy particle physics. So you have a vested interest in supressing the cold fusion research.

    The fact of the matter is you and your high energy colleagues have worked for more than 5 decades to research hot fusion. You spend hundreds of billions of dollars, and the likelihood that hot fusion could succeed is still as remote as 50 years ago. So why should the public continue to spend multiple billion dollars to fund your research in hot fusion and in particle accelerators, if cold fusion is successful and we don't need hot fusion any more?

    People should watch the 5 parts YouTube video "War Against Cold Fusion" to understand who has the hidden agenda and for what reasons:

    War Against Cold Fusion 1/5

    Now, Dr. Piccioni. I challenge you to actually read some cold fusion research literatures. Try to understand them. Try to poke holes. Talk to the scientists who do the research, ask them questions. Scrutinize details like Dr. Robert Duncan did. Don't let any one else do the thinking for you. If you have done that, and you still come out being skeptical about cold fusion, then you could be a little bit more credible.

    Unfortunately, Dr. Richard Garwin has totally destroyed his credibility in the TV program. I don't care what's his background. If he made those absurd claim that the cold fusion researchers could not measure the voltage and current correctly for 20 years, he is making a fool out of himself. Any high school student can measure voltage and current correctly. Every one who watched the 60 Minutes program can judge Dr. Garwin on their own. I wonder why would Dr. Garwin destroy his own credibility like that consider his background!

    Read here for more criticism

  4. Thursday, the APS issued a press release dated April 22 stating that CBS 60 Minutes' had made false statements regarding the process by which Dr. Robert Duncan was selected as a technical expert by the program's producers to evaluate the excess heat claims of Energetics Technologies. The press release made it emphatically clear that the APS had nothing whatsoever to do with his selection. For details go to URL =

  5. "Cold fusion: please, may I have a cup of tea??" by Dr. Bob Park

    In last Friday's April 24 issue of "What's New," Dr. Robert L. Park's sometimes caustic weekly commentary on science-related topics, the irrepressible Dr. Park made some very witty remarks about the controversial April 19 CBS 60 Minutes program segment on 'cold fusion' and related Internet brouhaha that took place last week.

    To read Park's comments, please go to URL =

  6. Dr. Piccioni, I can understand your skepticism. However, helium has long been reported in association with excess heat in the palladium deuteride system, at the ratio of 25 +/- 5 MeV/ He-4, there are many publications showing this. There are a number of proposed mechanisms that could explain this; the most likely to me seems to be the hypothesis that the palladium lattice allows four deuterons to fuse to form Be-8, which immediately decays into twin alpha particles at 23.8 MeV. This hypothesis by Takahashi is mentioned in Mosier-Boss's paper finding energetic neutrons from palladium-deuterium codeposition experiments, published early this year in Naturwissenschaften. Mosier-Boss proposes that the main reaction (perhaps the Be-8 formation) causes a very low level of secondary hot fusion reactions which thus produce a few neutrons. The Sixty Minutes report only scratched the surface of research that has been done over the last twenty years in this area. Most physicists won't get it from looking at one source, Robert Duncan was paid to check it out more thoroughly. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy set up a panel with 18 experts in related fields; the panel was evenly split on the question of excess heat; half thought the evidence "convincing," half thought it inconclusive. One-third considered the evidence for nuclear process "somewhat convincing." That was with a one-day seminar. Duncan spent much more time. It is not easy to change your paradigms, many people can't do it, once they have expressed the view that something is bogus, that's it, often for the rest of their lives. Why didn't they show evidence of helium? The question is, instead, "Why didn't you look to see if this has been done? Why did you depend only on a shallow TV report?" Read the paper Michael McKubre presented to the DoE in 2004. You can find a link to it on the Wikipedia article on cold fusion. Good luck.

  7. One more point. Nobody has convincingly demonstrated, yet, anything that could be used for commercial energy generation (though there are claims from Blacklight Power with only very limited independent confirmation -- and this isn't cold fusion, probably, even if it does work, it's something else quite as revolutionary); but we don't reject muon-catalyzed fusion, another form of cold fusion, because it won't brew a cup of tea. Robert Duncan has been making the point that we need to treat science like science and set aside the politics and knee-jerk reactions. Science by press conference was a mistake made twenty years ago; how long does real science have to suffer for that? The basic Fleischmann finding of excess heat was never shown to be false, and there have been over 150 peer-reviewed publications confirming excess heat with palladium deuteride. Everybody was fooled by the absence of the expected neutrons, researchers spent years looking for them, finding only sporadic or occasional bursts, which was, of course, quite suspicious. They didn't find them because the basic reaction quite obviously doesn't produce them. Hindsight. Don't leave home without it. Recent cold fusion work is now 100% reproducible; it took well over 15 years to figure out how to do that. (Codeposition seems to be reliable; Arata's work with deuterium gas-loading of nanoparticle palladium alloy also seems to work 100% of the time. It was the Pons-Fleischmann method of electrolysis with bulk palladium that was so famously quirky, so people were trying, for years, to confirm results that even Fleischmann only got maybe 15% of the time, after five years of refining the technique in 1989. The negative replications in 1989 were based on inadequate information, and certainly inadequate time, only a few researchers in 1989 managed to replicate the heat effect, but those numbers continued to increase even as scientists, overall, rejected the reports. Complicating all this was Fleischmann's clumsy report of radiation, which was artifact. But Fleischmann was an expert at calorimetry, unlike his situation with radiation detection.

  8. Professor Piccioni,

    There are two curious features of the energy budget model employed in these cold fusion experiments that, to the best of my knowledge, have not been addressed.

    The first, which applies to the open, vented cells used by Pons and Fleischmann, is that the calorimetry model adopted by Miles and Fleischmann assumes that all the moisture that is vented is in the form of water vapor, and not as mist entrained in the vapors.

    If you observe the effervescence, as the bubbles of the evolving gases break the surface of the electrolyte, you can see that they spritz mist which can carry away water in the liquid phase rather than in the vapor phase. Ignoring the fraction of mist in the vapors introduces an error in the calorimetry that, as far as I know, has not been adequately addressed.

    The second feature, which applies to both open and closed cells, is that the electric current that drives the cell is assumed to be an ideal constant current, with only a DC component, and no AC power arising from fluctuations in ohmic resistance as the electrolyte bubbles on the surface of the electrodes.

    Omitting the AC power arising from fluctuations in the ohmic resistance systematically underestimates the input power by a factor that goes as the square of the fluctuations in the ohmic resistance of the cell. A 10% fluctuation in the resistance would inject an additional 1% of AC power, over and above the DC power. To the best of my knowledge, this issue has not been adequately addressed either.